The End of the Bolivarian Revolution?

Venezuela is in crisis. At the beginning of last month, the opposition parties in Venezuela announced their plans for ousting the current President, Nicolas Maduro. The plan involves three approaches: 1. A recall referendum, 2. A constitutional amendment, and 3. Mass popular protests. Mass protests won’t really get underway unless the first two approaches fail, and the Venezuelan Supreme Court recently blocked approach number 2. This leaves the recall effort as the only path before the opposition resorts to mass protests. The recall effort had a major win yesterday, collecting in one day a reported three to five times the necessary votes for the process to begin. However, there are many opportunities in the recall process for the government to block or delay it.

In the Venezuelan system, a recall referendum can only be started after the President serves three full years and must be passed before the end of the fourth year to trigger new elections. If a recall is passed after a President’s fourth year in office is completed, his Vice President serves the rest of the term. For the Venezuelan government, this would give them two more years in control of the executive office which they undoubtedly hope will be enough time to revive their popularity. Mr. Maduro’s fourth year ends next April, giving the opposition one year to complete the recall process. The recall process has three stages: 1. (already complete) Get 1% of the electorate to sign a petition supporting a recall, 2. After the signatures are verified by the government the opposition is required to get 20% of the electorate to sign a second petition to trigger a referendum, and 3. (Quoted from the BBC) “an equal or greater number of voters than those who elected Mr. Maduro would have to cast their vote in favor of the recall”. However, given the fact that Maduro was only elected with just over 50% of the vote, getting the referendum passed is well within the realm of possibility. Which is why the Venezuelan government will try to stop or delay it as much as they can.

The opposition is buoyed by the near total collapse of the Venezuelan economy. Inflation is estimated to be in the triple digits, GDP growth is around negative 8%, public services have been slashed and blackouts (already common) are now government enforced. Maduro’s close election victory in 2013 happened before the economic collapse, and it is unlikely that he could win a referendum should it occur. And should the government prevent the referendum from occurring, it is likely that Venezuela will see a new Revolution to replace the current Bolivarian Revolution.


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